Chapter 3: On Creative Theft
We all know how the hours can just disappear as we peruse our colleagues' websites and blogs. All that beautiful work! And there has never been more of it. The standard of wedding photography is sky high these days. It's incredible. With SO many blogs, pinterest boards and SO much stuff out there, it sometimes feels like it is impossible to create something new, to create something unique.
But... get off other photographers’ websites. Get out there and create your own. Focus on all those aspects of servicing your clients and building your business that are not the images. And, when you are looking at other photographers that you admire, here's how you "steal" creatively in a positive way:
Analyze the image in question. Identify the different aspects that makes you love it. The atmosphere, the type of setting (brick wall, woodland, etc), the couple's body language, the light, or how the shadows fall, the colours, the composition etc etc. Once you have done that, instead of trying to recreate an exact copy of it, take one of those elements and intentionally incorporate that into a shot in your next shoot or wedding.
That is how you develop your skills and style and create something that is truly yours instead of ripping off someone else's work.
My mind was blown when I read Jeff Goins' book, Real Artists Don't Starve, a few months ago. In it he writes:
"We all want to be original - no one wants to be accused of being a copycat. But the Starving Artist worries about being original, whereas the Thriving Artist knows that stealing from your influences is how you make great art.
This is the Rule of Creative Theft, which says greatness doesn't come from a single great idea or eureka moment. It comes from borrowing other people's work and building on it. We steal our way to greatness (...)
Creativity starts with stealing, but it does not end there. The creative process, when done right, culminates in something so interesting, that others are now compelled to steal from you. That's when you know you've done your job: you are no longer the thief but the one being robbed."
And such an important part of creative theft, is to give credit when credit is due! Back in the old days of artistic endeavors, being able to replicate your master's work was a sign of talent and worthy of admiration not ridicule or anger. But these days when our "masters" are so far away from us and the personal ties only exist online or not at all, it is very very easy to feel "robbed" when someone who you have no real relationship with is clearly copying your work. So make sure that when you create an image that is truly inspired by someone else's work that you just write that too. Give them credit for moving you to create.
If you experience being the agrieved party and feel that someone has "stolen" your work, keep in mind before you say or do anything negative in public or in private, that sometimes lightning strikes twice at the same time. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how inspiration and ideas jump from person to person looking for someone to bring them to life. And sometimes artists do have the same ideas. And you cannot always know who had the idea first.
The only time you are in your full right to get angry is when someone is using an actual image of yours as their own or without credit.